Frank Keoghan points to a map of Santry.
On it, beside the Omni Shopping Centre, stand grey plastic tower blocks to demonstrate the heights of several planned apartment blocks.
There is parking for 800 cars with those roughly 800 new homes alone, and there are thousands more homes planned for the area, which will mean even more cars, says Keoghan. But congestion in Santry is already really bad.
Public transport is crammed in the area already too. “You will not get on a bus here, during rush hour,” says Paddy Fagan standing beside him in the community centre.
Keoghan says they’re not against the new homes being built in the area. “We need housing and we need social housing too,” he says.
But what’s the solution to the transport issues it’s likely to bring?
Bus routes starting in Santry, they say. And “feeder buses”, says Keoghan, as he traces the map of Northwood, a sprawling private estate in Santry with no public transport. “A feeder coming from Northwood, they desperately need something.”
Feeder buses going around the estates bringing people out to the main buses, maybe linking into the motorway, says Keoghan.
Extra buses are just one of a host of ideas that the Santry Forum pitched to councillors recently, in the Santry Community Plan 2023.
Included in the vision is also a library and performance space, an athletics and local history museum and a new village centre – all to build a sense of community and identity.
The forum is pushing for local job opportunities too, step-down housing for older people and a “biodiversity highway” to link Santry Park to Dublin City University (DCU).
“We are talking about the 15-minute city, that is our vision,” says Fagan.
They don’t expect it all to happen immediately, says Keoghan. “But if you haven’t got a vision you won’t get anywhere.”
In the community centre in Santry, yellow Easter decorations hang from the ceiling.
There are posters on the noticeboard advertising activities – yoga, dancing and art classes.
The Omni Shopping Centre nearby boasts a wide range of shops, as well as cafes, restaurants and a cinema.
But there are major gaps in state services. Santry needs a youth club, schools and doctors, says Fagan, as they are all oversubscribed.
“The schools are full,” says Keoghan.
Crucially there is no village centre, says Fagan. No focal point for the community or way of remembering the history of Santry.
The Santry Forum is proposing a new athletics museum, incorporating a small local history museum, as part of the redevelopment of Santry Stadium.
That would help to build a sense of place and identity, says Keoghan.
The forum also wants more jobs in the area. The industrial lands at the Shanowen Business Centre could be used for a science or technology hub linked to nearby DCU.
The concept of the 15-minute city includes having jobs locally. “This is our last chance to get some enterprise into the area,” says Keoghan.
It would be vital that existing business, community and recreational uses – including creches, dance schools, martial arts clubs and mechanics – that currently operate from warehouse buildings were protected in any redevelopment of the business centre, he says.
Also, Dublin City Council should use a compulsory purchase order to acquire a derelict site near the church on Swords Road to build housing for older people, says Fagan. There is currently a waiting list for step-down housing for older people who want to stay living in their community, and that would help free up homes too.
Linking a Community
One major issue in Santry is traffic congestion compounded by inadequate public transport service, says Keoghan.
On paper, there are regular buses through Santry, but often – and especially at peak times – those buses are full because they start in Swords or pass through Dublin Airport, he says.
“There are buses every few minutes,” says Fagan, but so many are already packed by the time they get to Santry. “We have capacity but we haven’t got access”
Only one bus originates in Santry, he says, and that runs every 20 minutes.
As well as access to the city centre and beyond, there are problems with getting around Santry.
People living in Northwood are particularly cut off from the rest of Santry, says Keoghan, so feeder buses running around all of the estates would be beneficial and cut out traffic.
“Permeability between the different parts of Santry is an urgent necessity,” says the forum’s presentation.
Keoghan also wants to see a walking route developed through Santry, which he thinks would link different parts of the community and possibly encourage people to walk to the Omni Shopping Centre, say, instead of driving.
Santry Park is going to be linked to the east of the city via a major river walk all along the Santry River, he says. He would like to see a green walkway built from Santry Park, through the Omni Shopping Centre and on to DCU. A “biodiversity super highway”, he says.
“Because we badly need it,” says Keoghan. “It’s creating a link, opening up the community a bit.”
“It gives something for the youth,” says Fagan. “Get the young people moving.”
The Santry Forum will formally pitch its ideas to councillors and council officials at an upcoming meeting of the North Central Area Committee, says Keoghan.